Colon Cancer Breakthrough Could Lead to Prevention-And The Foods That Can Help

Source: University of Warwick

Summary: Researchers have found a common link between inflammation and common cellular process which helps to prevent or better treat colon cancer, Crohn’s and other diseases.

Autophagy is a normal but an essential process of self-digestion where the cells break down and recycle the harmful or damaged elements within themselves to maintain homeostasis. When autophagy is dysfunctional it causes tissue inflammation which makes us susceptible to harmful diseases, particularly in the gut. Understanding this link could help to find effective treatments for diseases related to the gut such as colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. By regulating and controlling autophagy the root cause of the gut diseases can be targeted. Researchers for the first time identified a protein which is regulated by autophagy The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Role of autophagy in gut diseases

Kenny protein accumulates in cells lacking different components of the core autophagy machinery. a. Atg1 null mutant cells expressing nuclear GFP (yellow) were generated by MARCM. b. Atg13 null mutant cells, lacking the expression of nuclear GFP (yellow), were generated by FRT/FLP recombination. c, d. RNAi silencing of Atg5 c and Atg8a d in cells expressing mCD8-GFP (yellow). Arrowheads show some Kenny aggregates. Credit: University of Warwick

Foods such as pomegranates, mushrooms, pears, lentils, red grapes, green peas and soya beans contain natural compounds which have the ability to activate autophagy which helps to prevent inflammation and gut diseases. Researchers identified a protein called Kenny (contains a motif of amino acids) which is regulated by autophagy. In dysfunctional autophagy, Kenny gets accumulated and causes tissue inflammation. This phenomenon is observed in the gut of fruit flies. The human bodies lack the regular motif of amino acids which Kenny uses in fruit flies, therefore, it is, even more, danger and difficult to regulate autophagy process in human.

Dr. Ioannis Nezis, the lead author said, “Understanding the molecular mechanisms of selective autophagy and inflammation will help to use interventions to activate the autophagic pathway to prevent inflammation and promote healthy well-being during the life course.”

And further added, “Natural compounds contained in fruits and vegetables like pomegranates, red grapes, pears, mushrooms, lentils, soybeans and green peas have been shown to activate autophagy, therefore inclusion of the above in our diet would help to prevent inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of gut diseases.”

More Information: Radu Tusco et al, “Kenny mediates selective autophagic degradation of the IKK complex to control innate immune responses”, Nature Communications, (2017) 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01287-9

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